Monthly Archives: May 2006

the colour of your heart…

I was reading today, Fifteen Thousand Useful Phrases by Grenville Kleiser. Of course. If you aren’t reading that kind of book then your life is just too flimflam, and I would ask you to cut it out. The book’s subtitle is “A Practical Handbook Of Pertinent Expressions, Striking Similes, Literary, Commercial, Conversational, And Oratorical Terms, For The Embellishment Of Speech And Literature, And The Improvement Of The Vocabulary Of Those Persons Who Read, Write, And Speak English”.

Apparently one can never have too many Pertinent Expressions. Or speech embellishments. Indeed.

Hidden away in this most august document I found this aside, and I just had to share:

[Pencilled into the flyleaf: “A navy blue feeling where my heart used to be”]

And in the mutter and morass that 15,000 useful phrases can become, this single line said more. Not only because a pencil note on the flyleaf is most definitely marginalia of the highest order, but because it so aptly captures the feeling of love lost, or at least gone away for a while.

And some days are like that, even when the people you love are close at hand. But nevertheless, a navy blue feeling can be there, instead … unbidden and unwelcome.

for the geeks amongst us…

Hello geeks (you know who you are).
Here’s a platform statshot from my blogs:

Marginalia   Aquaculture
Windows XP 346   Windows 98 523
Windows 188   Windows XP 422
Windows 2000 138   Windows 272
Mac 71   Windows 2000 203
Windows 98 14   Mac PowerPC 26
Linux 7   Mac 16
Mac s-HttpC 7   Linux 12
Windows NT 4   Mac XML-RPC 9
Mac XML-RPC 3   Windows NT 3

I’m not sure if ‘Windows’ means win3.1.1 (surely not), but what I think is most interesting is the huge number of Win98 in the aquaculture blog. My first guess was this is an indication of users from smaller economies not being able to afford the upgrade to XP. I don’t think that’s the case, because a huge percentage of the volume comes from the USA. Maybe XP isn’t as easily pirated backedup. Maybe the users are using older machines.

Who knows. I’ve always been interested in the server stats. I’ll be interested to see over a longer time period whether the OS wars will balance out, but I was surprised about the suggested socios. Maybe ‘windows’ means from a windows server.

At least, here in marginalia.ako, the most searched term (contrary to what it was in edublogs) is not ‘soft boiled eggs’. Don’t ask.

stamping my cloven hoof…

This site is certified 40% EVIL by the GematriculatorI used to work with people who wanted to set up their own businesses. I enjoyed helping people learn some of the probing questions needed to decide if the business was viable of not. One of the people wanted to set up a business based on numerology. I told him I thought it was all pretty much bollocks, but tell me about it and then at least I can think it’s bollocks from an informed and non-biased position.

I was interested to find that my student could tell me some quite interesting things about my past life (no, not those lives as the fresh prince of cairo or whatever), and could tell me which years had been good and those not so. Interesting. I’ve also read the books with all the amazing predictions based on word combinations from the Bible, the Talmud, and, I suspect, a 1971 Ford Cortina manual. Then there were the books by the computer cryptologist who came up with other predictions. So it was fun to find the Gematriculator could do an assessment of this writing, and, oh good grief, only a 40% rating. Will the shame never end?

I am of the opinion that we only use 10% of our phone books. Apparently some people believe that’s true of the volume of brain cells that get used as well. That seems slightly far fetched to me. I mean, how could you measure the usage of brain cells by enough people to come up with a number so exactly 10%? Sounds like statistics from the fortune cookie school of xmas cracker quotes to me.


1. Mathematics is the language of nature
2. Everything around is can be represented and understood by numbers
3. If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge


1. The cycling of disease epidemics
2. The wax and wan of caribou populations
3. Sunspot cycles
4. The rise and fall of the Nile River

Pi – the best movie $60,000 can make. Not a movie for everyone, but it worked for me. Get it on dvd, get your dvd wired up through your stereo. View it somewhere between three and four times. Because you can.

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of BeesNote: Spoiler alert – contains details about how the book ends. Don’t read on if you’d prefer to discover how the story ends for yourself.

I read Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees yesterday. Having helped with my Dad with his bees as a kid I could relate to the learning experiences involved with bee keeping. I think bees are amongst the first domesticated animals, and they are a joy to work with.

The Secret Life of Bees tells the story of teenage girl who runs away with her black nanny, the girl escaping her father’s anger issues, and the nanny escaping her anger issues. So, here’s the story. Thelma and Louise come across a gingerbread house drizzled with honey and move in with the Triplets of Belleville. While they dance a bit they burn some food, and one of the triplets leaves a trail of crumbs, oh, wait, that’s Hansel and Gretel…

I liked the start of the book – I thought it had real potential. About a third of the way into the book, I found a phrase that I could really find resonance with –

One thing I was starting to understand was that August loved to tell a good story.
‘Really, it’s good for all of us to hear it again,’ she said. ‘Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.’

Sue’s writing is very accessible – I read the book in half the afternoon and part of an evening. The book should share space on the shelf along with other teenlit books. It’s got the chew power of a chick flick, and according to the blurb, film rights have been sold. Sue’s characterisations seem rather 2D, and there is the impression of someone making this up, rather than a story based on any reasoned, researched, or practical experience of the historic circumstances. The processing of honey was pretty much the way we used to; but I don’t believe, for example, that the parts of the story where a white girl and a black boy can drive about in the town together, pretty much ignored, while the southern states of the USA were tearing themselves apart with civil rights ‘tensions’. Just didn’t ring true.

And this is not the only place where the book separates itself from the similar feeling (but unrelated) Fried Green Tomatoes. The Secret Life of Bees confused me repeatedly over the passing of time – what seemed to be a long time was a week, and overall, the story moved forward, I’d guess about three months. Having worked with honey, I can assure you that it’s an annoyingly sticky kind of product, and it’s heavy (you try lifting five litres of honey), hard work – maybe I’m sensitive, but Sue conveys an impression that it’s all sweetness and light and if you send enough love out the bees won’t sting. Yes, you do have to be confident, calm, and quick, but, and here’s the thriller, bees have quite a small brain. They think that when you come in to take the honey that you’re stealing their hard work. They think that when the hive is attacked, they will defend it. This means stinging. You. They don’t have much room for receiving love when they’ve got war on their mind.

When I awoke this morning I finally made a connection to the wicked father. Sue didn’t delve deeply into the father’s (T. Ray) character – apparently T. Ray didn’t match Walter Cronkite in looks, wit, or wisdom. Who does? T. Ray didn’t object to his dog peeing on his boot once. T. Ray got hot and tired running his peach orchard. T. Ray showed his world what he thought of it with a giant bum shaped sculpture of a peach outside the farm gate. Apparently this made him a completely flawed charater. It’s true, he did torture Lily by having her kneel on grits (coarsly ground corn) for an hour. It’s true he could have done with some anger management classes, if he lived in these politically correct days. But, he didn’t.

It feels slightly voyeristic to make the actions that would’ve found acceptance in the past, vile in the present. I think that this is where The Secret Life of Bees falls apart. There’s a kind of prissy, curled up lip, spoiled brattishness about the writing. T. Ray is a man who fell in love with a woman, and marries her when she became pregnant. T. Ray works on his peach orchard – relentless, unrewarding work which he took on to support his wife and somewhat unwanted family. Meanwhile his wife runs off leaving him with the child. The wife has a nervous breakdown, it’s possibly some sort of post-natal depression. T. Ray now has to deal with the trials running the farm, the grinding poverty, a girl child, and an absent wife with a nervous breakdown. The only creature that rewards him with unconditional love is Snout, his dog, and it is no surprise that Snout is forgiven for the one urinary lapse he makes. T. Ray doesn’t have the benefit of a good education, he has managed to hold it together back in civilian life having been in the military – I’m not sure if it was WW II or Korea. The one thing that did become apparent was that T. Ray had loved his wife.

Sue decided to leave this for the reader to pull together (if they can) through the book, and in my case, I clicked the next day. How would I feel towards a bratty, somewhat unwanted kid, when I was exhausted and frustrated after a stinking hot day dealing with a low income crop like peaches? A kid who shot and killed her mother, the woman I loved? A kid who runs off? A kid who then rings me collect to ask her burning, big question in life, which is ‘What’s my favourite color?’

How would I feel? Oh, I think I’d send about as much love as the bees would…

and the wheel goes around…

image by Marcel BaaijensWe were thrilled to get a note from our multimedia artist friend, Marcel today – “So i decided to try and play with a blog, and I did it!” Yay! Marcel has been working with our Damian and a number of other artists here in Wellington. In his ‘spare’ time he’s been tilting at government windmills – I wrote about the results here.

Practical upshot is Marcel’s decided to pack in tilting for the moment, and spend some time exploring. I like that. I’m also delighted he’s illustrating and documenting his journey for us all.

I do want to go to Chelsea!

image of the 100% Pure New Zealand garden design inspired by the west coast of Auckland from on my list of stunning things to do with my life would be to win a gold at the Chelsea Flower Show. Yes, my comedic regular readers, I know my chances are pretty much limited to possible runner up in the best dried arrangement section. Xanthe White, on the other hand, appears to be most adept at moving beyond landscaping being a mere media gardener – even if Xanthe does still manage a video diary on the side. I believe the end result 100% Pure New Zealand garden is superb. So superb, from the detailed panorama, it’s clear it’d be a great looking garden in our backyard (hint, hint). Xanthe has taken the design requirements of a corner lots and made a typically Kiwi response. Plants. Native plants. And lots of them. The other garden design from this part of the globe takes a typically Australian garden response – let’s do the same as we did last year, and use lots of hard landscaping. I like it. V.Australian, and uses just a few, well chosen (slow growing) plants. Kind of trophey-ism.

That to me is the hallmark of our respective landscaping cannons. Australian landscaping, at its best, incorporates hard landscaping – concrete, stone, scupltural forms – beautifully, with vegetation often minimal, spartan, functional – replaceable. It’s almost as though the thinking is “well, we could have a bush fire over this lot tomorrow, all we’d have to do is cool it down, spray for the white ants, pick up a couple of flats of instant colour from Bunnings, and we’ll be good for a barbie with Ken in time for the footie.”

New Zealand landscaping seems to think of hard landscapes as those on steep clay slopes with dry shade. Accordingly, Xanthe’s design is first about the planting, and second about the sculptural components. It’s a tribute to her training, experience, and design skills that the hard landscaping integrates with the planting in ways evocative of the west Auckland coastal forests. The selection of plants used in the 100% Pure New Zealand garden (1,500 were sent from NZ, the rest sourced in the UK and Europe) is interesting: Kauri (Agathis australis); Kowharawhara (Astelia banksii) with the silvery-green, strappy leaves; Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsa) – of course; Toothed lancewood (Pseudopanax ferox) – the sculptural tree (as a juvenile) with the jagged bronze-y, chocolate-y brown leaves; Nikau (Rhopalostylis sapida) – essential; the Shrubby tororaro (Muehlenbeckia astonii) – you know the one – it has the little green leaves that sort of ping out randomly as the stems zigzag wildly; Coprosma propinqua – a divaricating species for groundcover; Libertia ‘Taupo Blaze’ – from the breeding work at Taupo Native Plant Nursery, with reddish, iris-like leaves; Cyathea medullaris – the mamaku, of course; Apodasmia similis, the Oioi, or jointed wire rush, (aka Leptocarpus similis) with its spikey rush-like leaves (it’s not a rush, by the way, it’s a restid – details, readers, details); and finally (but not exhaustively) the Saltbush (Atriplex cinerea) with its silvery-grey foliage.

The next best thing to winning at Chelsea is to go. If, like me, the wallet is slightly thinner than usual, you can take another virtual panorama tour of the 100% Pure New Zealand garden, courtesy of the Royal Horticultural Society. Just lovely. Congratulations, Xanthe and team for the Silver-Gilt Flora. Yay!


A number of my creative pals around the world seem to have sludged to a halt. I couldn’t work out what the issue is, and then I noted from Kate’s blog that it was international towel day – of course. I’d forgotten this is the time of year when the earth’s rotation slows slightly…

Towel Day :: A tribute to Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

I went and gathered photos of gulls on the waterfront. Nice reflections…

from here to there (and back again)

I had lunch with Phil, back briefly from Omarama. Where? Omarama, New Zealand’s centre for waves. No, not the water ocean, the big ocean, the one we live in. In between applying his civilising influence to glider pilots from around the world, and an insane social life, Phil’s mapped (using the GoogleMaps api) the structured airpoints of New Zealand. If you have Firefox you can see where Omarama is, and then every other turn point in New Zealand.

No Firefox, no see.

random events

It seems strange to me when people talk about things being ‘random’. Especially when they’re not. Unusual, but not random.

I was sitting on the bus on the way home tonight and I had this random thought arrive and I figured out (randomly) that there’s really random, like totally infinite random, and then there’s like big numbers, with a number selected at random from within a fixed range.

It occurred to me that lotto is a fixed range. A big fixed range, granted. I couldn’t do the maths in my head on the bus, the random bumps on the road kept shaking the numbers out of my head. I used Excel instead. I think the chances of getting the first division, six balls plus a seventh, is 1 in 93,963,542,400. Which is quite a big number. But not an infinite number of choices.

I pushed the bell to get off at my stop, but the bus driver was counting his lucky stars and went on past. I had to get off at the next stop, and walk home in the rain.

How random is that?

and then there were none

I’ve been amazed over the last week at how winter has bust a move. Nothing overly exceptional, a bit of a southerly, nothing to write home write about. What has been screamingly obvious to me has been the sudden departure of the fish from the harbour. Every day since I can’t remember when, I’ve noted a huge fish population – and suddenly – gone.

It’s just not the same now.